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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  August 15, 2021 1:00am-2:00am PDT

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and give it to others who are less fortunate. and so, we do that. my sister and i both knew that today. that's part of our mission in life. and we go about with my dad, our dad as an angel. and my brother as an angel on the other shoulder. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline". i'm natalie morales. thanks for watching. >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline". >>. >> they found each other and their own tropical island. >> we saw love and the waters. and that's it. that willthat's it. that wil
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until some of those neighbors started to disappear. here is kate snow with "stealing paradise". >> it is a dream that seemed so out of reach. quit the rat race, move to an exotic glenn, and by your very
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own private island. >> even when she was young, she wanted to travel. she wanted to see the world. >> had cher hughes the dream and she made it come true in the most unlikely place. a tiny, far away island of bocas del toro, panama. >> she would just take a picture of the sunset and send it to me. she said, it's like living in a postcard. >> life was beautiful and simple. an escape from the pressures of modern living. who could have known that evil could find a place in paradise, to. that beneath all that beauty was a dark secret. >> it still seems very on real. i don't want to believe it. >> this is a really, really bad guy. >> just send chills down my spine. >> but before the nightmare, came the dream. bocas del toro is the kind of place where people come to escape. a group of islands off the
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coast of panama and weight off the beaten path. it's the kind of place where things move more slowly. and life is supposed to be easy. >> cher first visited the islands with her boyfriend, keith werle,. with cher it was love at first sight. what's more, it was affordable. for the same money cher had been saving up to save around the world, she bought her little piece of paradise. a rental property, a small house, and that tiny rhode island. >> we saw that lump in the water inside, that's it. that will be our spot for the rest of our lives. >> cher and keith met seven years before that when the vibrations blond walk into a bar keith owned in florida. >> came in big ice, big smile and it was, she was just so beautiful. >> grew cher up in st. louis where her all american good looks got her into modeling as
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a teenager. >> she walked in a room and just beat. everybody knew she was. there she was always happy. she always had a smile for everybody. >> eventually cher move to st. petersburg, florida, where her sister judy says she became a savvy businesswoman. running her own neon sign company. >> she always make sure she had that income. she made sure she was setting herself up for exactly what she wanted to do, retire and travel around the world. >> they cher traveled but mostly in the u.s.. then a friend invited her to visit exotic bocas del toro. and cher jumped at the chance. >> took a seven days to decide we're gonna live there through the rest of our lives. just hit us that hard. people here, just phenomenal. >> we love you! >> cher loves children and panama has lots of. kids >> keith is a carpenter so he built their dream home. a combination of wooden buildings on top of their lush, green island. cher trend planted tropical gardens and adopted lots of animals, including a pet monkey
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and a beautiful brown, doberman pinscher named jack. he adored cher and followed her wherever she went. she loved the local school kids. planned movie nights with popcorn and celebrated the holidays with enthusiasm. even though her friend sean trainer said the kids didn't always get the significance. >> she would do all these activities where the kids had no idea what this crazy white woman was doing. coloring eggs. hiding them around on the island. and they never participated in anything like that before. >> cher's. , expat. >>. . >> kristen who moved from norway was in her close report. friends >> we treated each other like family and take care of each other. >> everyone went by their first
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names or nicknames. keith and cher were known as ken and barbie. the man who owned one of the local watering holes, another american, was known as "wild bill". viking hat and all. bill and his wife jane opened a bar on their secluded property. accessible only by boat. where the sometimes gathered for brunch drinks. >> bill had the saturday parties at his place once or twice a month. everybody was there. >> it was cher's tropical dream come true. a beautiful backdrop for family reunions light heard the time her and mary came to visit. >> her grandmother, my mother, and i came down and visited. we had a tour and they met us at the airport with a big bouquet of flowers. and it was just wonderful. >> there was another big trip in the works. cher's sister judy was planning to visit for the very first. time >> she wanted to show you her paradise?
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>> oh, yeah. >> the trip would be a good disruption destruction for cher her. life had recently turned upside down. her five your marriage to keith had a rough spot. he'd had even moved out. >> when keith had moved off the island, she was pretty devastated. but then again, i also thought, whose marriage is perfect? hopefully they will work it out. i know they still loved each other. >> the sisters were excited about the trip. plans were in full swing. >> and then what happens? >> then i don't hear from her. >> one day past. then in other. and still, nothing. >> too much time has gone by and now i know something has happened. >> judy was worried. and cher was gone. >> coming up -- >> where is cher? they're going, i don't know. but we're mad at her. to >> maybe her mysterious disappearance could be soft. a text message from cher two keith with some bad news. >> she just said, i met
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somebody else. better than you. >> and she was running away without? percent >> yes. >> so maybe she just got on a boat with someone that she you didn't know about and should be back in a week. >> right. yeah. >> it wouldn't surprise me that all mary, i went sailing and then my phone fell off the deck when i brought my purse. that would be cher. >> but who was this new mystery man? and we're was cher? >> when "dateline" continues. es rollerball design. because with the right pain reliever... life opens up. aleve it, and see what's possible.
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panama, cher hughes had been living out the dream of owning her own island. but then she vanished. >> imagine you were calling? leaving messages. >> calling, taxing, facebook. then i started reading her
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facebook. it's like, cher where are you? people that were in panama haven't seen you around town. where are you at? give me a call. and we started wondering. >> when cher's husband keith realize she had left town, she was he was surprised. but he thought he might know. i had cher been talking about spending time in panama city, a place where she could blend into the scenery more easily and wrap her head around their breakup. >> she told me she won an apartment in panama city, to spend some time in the. city get out of bocas because it is such a small community. >> she's got a little tired? >> yeah. bumping into the same people, telling the same story. she was ready for a little break from the bocas. >> it's not unusual for people to come and go around here. after all, the easygoing lifestyle is part of the islands charm. but cher's friends and family said it wouldn't be like her to leave so abruptly. leave her cherished island with all her belongings still here. cher's and mary started phoning
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friends in panama's. >> everyone was saying, you know cher she might have just gone for a week or lost her phone. we're >> like, okay, maybe. >> mary logged onto cher's facebook place page and reached out to those. friends >> they're going worried she, i don't know. why would she not call me? were aggravated with her? like what are you doing? >> and then, some good news. cher's received a text message from her saying she had got sale. she's a free spirit? right? >> oh she had an opportunity she, go. >> so maybe she just got on a boat with some new friend that you didn't know about. and should be back in. week >> right. yeah. >> it wouldn't have surprised me that, oh, mary i went sailing and then my phone fell off the deck when i was out there. that would be cher, for 3 to 4 days. >> the messages were reassuring,
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but not for long. a few days past and cher didn't return. then another text message. this one from cher two keith. >> she just said, i met somebody else better than you. >> she said she had met someone else. >> yes. >> and she was running away with that person? >> a mystery man? keith wanted to get to the bottom of. >> well i called her best friend and said, did cher meet somebody? does she have a man that i don't know about? is something going on? she never mentioned that. ever. she's waiting for you. there's no man. she didn't. runaway >> that keith noted something strange about the messages. they were written in cher's usual style. >> instead of small letters, it would be all capitals. and she would always right a-r-e, and it would be "r" for our. instead of t-o it would be "2". it just changed. >> and then, the text messages just stopped. cher's aunt mary call the u.s. embassy in panama and beg for help. >> the embassy made a big point
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of saint people disappear all the time and if she wants to be found she will contact you. so, i had a hard time shouting into the darkness of the embassy, saying help me, help me. things >> things got worse. cher didn't call her father on his birthday. it was a huge alarm bell. >> i knew how she felt about her dad. she would never, ever miss his birthday. so, something had happened to cher for sure. >> after two months, it was staring everyone in the face. the unanswered phone calls, the strange messages, the missed birthday. all the clues pointing to a horrible conclusion. >> did you start to panic? >> yes. i knew something was wrong. the whole family started to panic. >> the terrible realization sank in. cher hadn't gone all ceiling or run away with a mystery man. she wasn't hiding out in an apartment in panama city. something had happened to her. friends in bocas wrapped rocked their brains for answers and started thinking about another
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american from their group who had also left abruptly. had anyone heard from him? what if cher was the only person missing? what if there were to? >> i just woke up one morning is like, i just knew. >> coming up -- another american apparently just walked away. leaving his home and a lot of questions behind. >> shoes by the door, his game is next to it. dirty dishes in the same. just gave me a really weird vibe. >> i knew right off the bat, it's like whoa, what's going on here? >> i couldn't ignore any more. somebody had to do something. >> when "dateline" continues. nues
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islands of bocas del toro, panama, a crisis was brewing. cher hughes had been missing for two months. now her family and friends wondered if her disappearance had anything to do with another american who had left the island a rubber abruptly, for months before cher. a moon name a man name bo icelar. >> bo was quiet. introvert. he was really great guy. >> kept bo a low profile since moving to bocas from sante fe, new mexico, in 2004. the former antique dealer was so quiet that no one really notice when he took off. >> a lot of people said hey,
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get on a boat and go to argentina for six weeks. and though ever tell anybody they're leaving. it's pretty easy to be not missed for a while. >> it made even more sense when they found out that bo had sold his home too wild bill. another american in their group famous for throwing lively parties many of the expats attended. including cher's friend kristen. i >> knew he wanted to sell and move somewhere different. so i assume they came to an understanding over the price and that bo had just left. >> still, as keith stop thought back two days after bo moved out, an image kept returning to his mind. an image of bo's house right after eid left. >> i walked in and looked around and it looked as if bo had gone out to the store. not moved out. i went back until my friend, i said i can't believe it. it's really weird. towels on the back of the cheers, shoes by the door, his skin is next to the front door. dirty dishes in the sink. it just gave me a really weird vibe. that bo would just walk away.
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>> two americans missing. rumors began to swirl. could their disappearances be linked? the >> more you think about something like that then, you know, it didn't add up. >> did it kind of eta you thinking about it? >> yeah, i kept thinking about. it the cause it was a right that cher would leave without the party. i knew that this girl would not leave town without throwing a party. and bo could leave, but the two of them together, i'm just like, send them their belongs after the fact. that didn't sound. right >> and then kristen heard something that made the floor drop from under her. bo had abruptly stopped paying his bills. something totally unlike him. >> i just woke up one morning i was like one of those were things and i just knew. i couldn't ignore any more. i just couldn't. somebody had to do something. >> kristen went to the police. >> did they immediately investigate? >> no. they just put it in a file. they just go, yeah yeah, yeah. they say all, people get last lost in panama all the.
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time >> christine reached out to someone she thought could. help me another expat, don winner, who went ran panama guide. a news website for foreigners living in panama. >> i was contacted by one of her friends that was concerned she was missing. and they asked for my help. >> had don lived in panama for decades and acted as a consultant on this story. he had originally come here with u.s. military intelligence. the case of the two missing americans caught his attention. >> i knew right off the bat that this was like, whoa, hey, what is going on here? i knew that i had to apply a lot of time to it and a lot of attention to it. and also knew that i had to get it. right >> he hopped on a flight from his phone in panama city to bocas del toro, and tapped into the coconut telegraph. >> what is the coconut telegraph? >> it's just the rumor mill. they call it the coconut telegraph. it's when something happens, word spreads quickly. >> and from what don was hearing, things just weren't
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adding up. he checked to see if bo and cher might have left the country. >> i knew that bo cher, both of them, their passports had not gone through the airport. and if you look at immigration movements, both of them you can check if they come in, when they come in. >> they're still in panama. >> they came in, they never left. so they're still in panama somewhere. >> but where? there was one more piece of the puzzle falling into place. and that would point a finger of suspicion at someone living right among them. >> coming up -- >> bill was the loudest voice in the room. he text everybody and said, your lord commence you to come to the party. >> a pirate out to make a killing in real estate. >> she wasn't selling that property. she loved it. >> bill showed up and said yeah, i bought everything. >> when "dateline" continues. [tires squealing]
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rally. they protested against mandates on covid-19 vaccines and matt. and they held american flags and that said no vaccine mandates. protect our freedom. hundreds of people may be inside the capitol -- hundreds more gathered outside saturday evening and some even held their own many rallies. now back to dateline. now back to dateline>> >> welcoo "dateline". i'm natalie morales. cher hughes and bo icelar, two americans who were living the good life in panama, each seem to have mysteriously vanished. but a check of their passports confirmed that neither had left the country. their disappearances seemed oddly similar. it turned out there was something else they shared. raising even more concern. here's kate snow with "stealing paradise". >> two americans had vanished
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from tropical tropical bocas del toro, and now after months of searching, their friends and family were convinced that their disappearances were linked. and that something terrible had happened to both of them. >> they both disappeared. and neither of them contacted anybody. same story. both of them had their personal belongings, that is going to be sent to them. one and one is to. >> american bo icelar had been the first to leave last fall. at the time, no one thought it was unusual. especially when they learned he had certain sold his house to someone else in the expat community, wild bill. >> bill had this persona of, i've got lots of cash. i can just wait for you. outright >> blogger don winner did some digging. he pulls documents from the public registry and found out that wild bill had actually bought more than just bo's home. bill cortez had taken over bo bo icelar's company. and the company owned the
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property. so shortly after bo goes missing, bill cortez and his wife are now the president and secretary of the company and they own. it >> was bill in a hurry to get bo's remodelled and fit flip to a new owner. he even places added a local pale paper and try to sell. in fact, while bill seem to be on a real estate buying and selling spree. he got his first property in 2007 from a reclusive family living on an estate close to cher's islands, the browns. a father, mother and teenage son. and now he had acquired bo's house as well. but it was bills next purchase that grabbed everyone's attention. >> bill showed up and said, yeah, i bought everything. >> everything? >> everything. >> meaning your rental properties. the house that you built together. the five buildings. this beautiful a state. >> exactly. >> bill said he bought cher's entire estate. even her beautiful island. and that cher had simply taken off. the >> dogs were there. my clothes were. their belongings were still on the island. so where is she? at war is all that stuff?
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when you get she gets back, you can deal with. that's between you and her. >> keith asked bill to bring his dogs and his stuff back. >> he placate it and brought me one of my dogs. here's one dog. and here's a table and two cheers. so, here's a tool box. there is a lot more missing here, bill. >> to keith, the whole story just didn't add up. >> she would've never sold the island. never happen. >> did you have any interest in that property? >> we put everything in cher's name. >> so she had the right senate? >> she had the right. everything >> but you don't think he would've done? that >> i don't think. so it was our home. we set it up to live there forever. >> it all sounded wrong to aunt mary, as well. >> she wasn't selling that place. she loved it. she loved it. >> mary wanted answers. she picked up the phone and called wild bill. >> and he told me, yeah, i got a great deal on's property. i brought by everything at 50 cents on the dollar.
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i said i would like to see that receipt. >> well i signed a confidentiality statement. i said oh, i'll take a look at that. >> where did he tell you she got? >> you know, i heard she got an apartment in panama city. i said, so where is her stuff and everything. he goes, oh yeah she got there and had me send her some jewelry and money air cargo. so i like to see the receipt on that. he says, this girl is not going to have you looking through her drawers finding her. julie >> and another curious thing was happening over at bill's place. no one could figure out why cher's devoted dog jack, kept swimming two bills house over and over again. they kept putting them back at your old home and he would swim right back. >> stay right there. >> but for bill, it was business as usual. even through one of his famous parties at cher's place with all her things still. there it all seemed a little odd to her friend, sean trainer,
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who sought by that night. >> it was it very well attended. >> why didn't people go? >> i guess everybody kind of had the same thing. it is really weird that it was in cher's house and he was throwing it. >> believing made a toss at the party. two friendship. >> and bill gave a speech? >> yeah. it just really with something about having good friends. >> just like a heyer's to good friends? >> yeah, yeah, it was like that. >> lived wild bill about an hours boat ride from the main island here in bocas del toro. they guy with a big personality. he was known for throwing parties at his place. even in a place that is full of colorful characters, wild bill stood out. >> he was always the loudest voice in the room. he text everybody and say, your lord commence you to come to my party. >> your lord commence you? >> yeah. he always talked about himself in third party, in a royal sense of some sort. you kind of took it as another one of bills quirks. >> another quirk? a pirate club bill created called the jolly roger social club. bill joked that only 90% of its
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members survived. by now, and an easy feeling about wild bill with spreading throughout bocas. and then normally rowdy party guy suddenly was lying low. every >> time i saw him, whatever he was doing he was trying to get the heck out of their. didn't want to answer a whole lot of questions. he was definitely nervous. >> and with good reason. when don winner tapped into the islands legendary coconut telegraph, the more he became convinced that wild bill was the key to finding both bo and cher. >> this was a common denominator between the two of them. this guy has supposedly brought their property for cash and then both of them disappeared. >> but while bill that with both these people and they're missing? >> do you remember that moment? >> yeah, dread came over me. like oh my god. he really could've done something to these people. >> could the brush real estate buying bartender be hiding a deadly secret? coming up -- the dark side of paradise. >> execute a search warrant at
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his house, i in the ak-47, get him in custody. >> the police went appreciable's then they came up about two hours later and said, we need you to come off and take a look. >> when "dateline" continues. yardwork... teamwork... long walks.... that's how you du more, with dupixent, which helps prevent asthma attacks. dupixent is not for sudden breathing problems. it's an add-on-treatment for specific types of moderate-to-severe asthma that can improve lung function for better breathing in as little as two weeks. and can reduce, or even eliminate, oral steroids. and here's something important. dupixent can cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. get help right away if you have rash, shortness of breath, chest pain, tingling or numbness in your limbs. tell your doctor if you have a parasitic infection, and don't change or stop your asthma treatments, including steroids, without talking to your doctor.
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while bill cortez ran the jolly roger social club with americans living on a group of panamanian islands like together. but he was interested in getting some of the local real estate. just how far did bill go to get his hands on these properties? local police were about to find out. continuing with stealing paradise, here is kate snow. >> in the tiny ex that community of bocas del toro, all eyes were on one of their own. wild bill cortez. in four months time he had snapped up the homes of two people who had mysteriously vanished. cher hughes was one of them. now she was telling anyone who would listen that the disappearances and property transfers were no coincidence. >> i thought that bill had done something to these people. i was telling people in bocas, the suspicions were all saying the same thing. >> and bill is still living nearby. >> bill is still near, yeah.
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and he told people he was going to shut me up. >> he told people. that >> he told three people that, he moved out of the house and into a hotel with security. >> keith wasn't the only one that was nervous. >> i became convinced that this guy cortez had killed these people in order to steal their property. that's when i said, i'm going to the authorities. >> he urged keith to do the same. >> you need to come to panama city, get to the prosecutor and turn up the heat. >> keith went to panama city, and laid up the case to the panamanian fbi. >> kudos to the panama police, they stepped it up. >> but for all the suspicion, there was no hard evidence of a crime. that's when don winner got an idea. he heard a lot of stories about "wild bill" and his ak-47, how he would fire it off sometimes to impress his friends. but in panama, it's illegal for a civilian to own that type of
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women, so a suggestion was made to police. >> get him in custody, find the ak-47. >> find. again >> find the gun, lock him. down >> and find out what role, if any, he may have had in the disappearances. police drew up the warrant on a steamy day in july and descended on the home of "wild bill", police began the search. >> police are looking around, they have a search warrant, looking for a gun. >> right, they are executing a search warrant for a ak-47. when they got here, they encountered sherrod's dog. >> jack, the doberman who adored share, who is already at the place. no one knew how he got there, but the dog was anxious, pacing nervously. >> he was agitated and kept circling, running up to the jungle. >> and the dog would come down and bark at the people that were doing the search and then
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run up the hill. as if, follow me, guys. >> this hill right here? >> right here, back up into the property. >> jack bounded up and down the hill until police followed him. there, they found something shocking. a mound of disturbed dirt. that began to dig. cher's husband keith waited at the bottom of the hill. >> the police waited with shovels and then they came down about two hours later and said we need you to come up and take a look. >> in a shallow grave, hidden under amount of garbage, the police made a horrible discovery. the body of cher hughes, she had been shot once in the back of the head. >> and that was one of the hardest days of your life? >> yes. when no one should ever see their kid look like that. >> now keith finally understood why jack kept swimming to bills place. >> he would swim that mile back and stay right there. staying true to mommy. >> but the horror wasn't over.
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as police continue searching bills property, they discovered another mound of disturbed dirt, another shallow grave. there, buried beneath more rubble, they found the other missing american. >> when they found the bodies, that's when they found and realized it was not just suspicions and accusations. it was really happening. >> keith watched as authorities raided bill's home. he says they found evidence of the ghastly crimes. bows i.d., shares passport, her purse and her cell phone, used to send those text messages, saying she had simply gone for a sale. and there was more, not see memorabilia, strange the tan excites, and jewelry that may have belong to the victims. and the most gruesome discovery? about a dozen gold teeth. >> he lived these things, he lived with personal effects and corpses around him. the ex pats in bocas, were in turmoil, two friends dead and
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their friends fan of the backyard of a man they once trusted, wild bill cortez. >> it was my home, i invited him to dinner, we did the social neighbor thing. and he shot my wife. it's just inconceivable. >> authorities launched a search for bill and his wife, who they also suspected was involved. but it was too late, they had already fled. >> this is now a major manhunt? >> right, i knew he was already out of the country already, on the fly. the most important thing at that point was to get his picture out there. every television screen, on every newspaper cover, on every computer monitor. it's got to get out there in a big way. >> by then, wild bill and his wife jane were in costa rica. someone recognize them bayern contacted the police, as the church search intensified. they made a desperate attempt to cross into one nicaragua by boat but were stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint.
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>> they got a drop on him at the checkpoint and said halt or die, and he stopped and put himself up. >> and of the line. >> that was the first time he was in handcuff. >> that was also the first time anyone heard while bill's real name. >> the farm looming bartender while bill cortez, was actually a 30 year old who had been on the run from american authorities since 2006. as the island absorb the news of the killer among them, wild bill, it was discovered, had a long and eateries past, that stretched miles from the beaches of bocas del toro all the way to north carolina. that's where he grew up, going by his middle name, dayton. he played high school football, married his high school sweetheart, and worked out of the landscaper. his old boss at a gym, liked dave and, but until he had an
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affair with his employees. he embezzled money from the gyms accounts. >> he told me he thought that it was part of his pay package. and i said no, it wasn't part of your pay package. and that was just the beginning william dathan holbert left the job and his wife. he ran off with a woman later known as jane cortez invoke us. in 2005, he started off on real estate scams. he sold a home that wasn't his for $200,000. police charge him with selling property under false pretenses. by the time the owner realized what happened, david was on the run, and it landed him on america's most wanted. william dathan holbert sold a stolen car in montana. and when pulled over for speeding in wyoming, he ran off, leaving them on a high-speed chase. it seems it was only after he
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moved to panama that william dathan holbert and his scams took a sinister turn. >> he would kill people to get the documentation and get the property. not only did he steal the property, he would steal everything in the house. cars, boats, right down to the toothbrush and the underwear on the docks. >> he took on their entire lives. >> right down to the change in their pocket. >> four years after fleeing from the states, wild bill was finally in police custody, charged with heinous crimes. and charged with murders. >> there are dozens, if not 100 people in bocas that all new sharon bo, and they're thinking, wow, this guy fooled us all. he fooled everyone. >> he got away with murder. >> he got away with it for a while. >> little did everyone know that wild bill had actually gotten away with a lot more. >> after authorities nabbed "wild bill" in costa rica, what else would they discover when
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he was brought back to panama? >> coming up -- there is a guard in this jail that gives me a cell phone and gives me threats on my life. >> a jail cell interview with wild bill. >> i'm not a bad guy, i'm getting what i deserve. >> when dateline continues. >>g what i deserve >> when dateline continues >> ♪ it's a new dawn, it's a new day... ♪ no matter how you got copd it's time to make a stand. ♪ ...and i'm feelin' good ♪ start a new day with trelegy. no once-daily copd medicine has the power to treat copd in as many ways as trelegy. with three medicines in one inhaler, trelegy helps people breathe easier and improves lung function. it also helps prevent future flare-ups. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. do not take trelegy more than prescribed. trelegy may increase your risk of thrush, pneumonia, and osteoporosis.
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relax people, my wireless is crushing it. that's because you all have xfinity mobile with your internet. it's wireless so good, it keeps one upping itself. welcome back. william hubbard and his wife, known to their expat friends as
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"wild bill" and jane cortez, where arrested for not only stealing the island properties of two americans, but also allegedly murdering them in cold blood. now bill was talking to the police. but they couldn't have been prepared for his stunning confession. here is kate snow with the conclusion of stealing paradise. >> the search for shares hughes and bow, ended tragically, both were found dead, shot in the head, and buried in shallow braves. after being caught at the nicaraguan border, while vail and his wife are merged in shackles, charged with the murders. bill's wife was subdued. and she denied any involvement. bill, however, appeared surprisingly cheerful, saying he was happy to be back in panama. >> those first days, when bill was brought back to panama, what was he like? >> he was making jokes and he was laughing.
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he was really -- he went and wanted people to see him. he was trying to show off. >> national director of police, gustavo perez, interrogated wild bill, and said he talked openly about the killings. he admitted to shooting bow on his boat. for cher, it started with a friendly dinner on bills place. afterwards, she was taken outside to look at some animals. when she turned to look at them, he shot her. >> did bill tell you why he murdered the people that he confessed to murdering? >> money. >> money? >> yeah, he said money, i wanted to have their things. >> but even the most harden cops were shocked to hear what else bill had done. bill drew a map of his home, with ex's marking where the bodies were buried. there were more than two axes,
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however, there were five. not just bow and share but three more people who died at the hands of "wild bill". this time was a father, mother and their teenage son. the brown family. they were the original owners of bills property. cher's neighbors. >> after the bodies were discovered, wild bill was seen as a monster in panama. a serial killer who kept his victims personal things in his own house. we wanted to speak with bill holder, so we reached out to his attorney. we did get a return call, it was the lawyer, with "wild bill" on the phone, calling from his jail cell in panama. he had already confessed but wanted to explain himself. >> i am not denying criminal activity and i am only saying that what's been portrayed in the media of this crazy serial killer thing is not true. i am not a serial killer. i have never taken pleasure in
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harming a human being. and the things i am done haunt me like you wouldn't believe. >> you also have to realize that these families are incensed, their family say that you had parties at their homes. how can you possibly defend that action. >> defend my actions? i'm a bad guy. i'm your worst nightmare. but i'm also saying is that i didn't wake up one morning and decide to kill my neighbors. >> shortly after our call, a very different looking bill hole bird gave an interview to a local panamanian tv station, his wild blond hair replaced with a buzz cut. >> i did it, i'm going to be punished for it. >> in cold and chilling detail, he recounts how he murdered the brown family. >> gruesome, and i understand it is very -- i mean, you answer me and i'll answer your questions. i separated them and i asked him to show me a well he had
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dug. and without him knowing happening, i shoved him from behind. >> he also admits to another ex pat victim. jeffrey cline. he claims he died when the two got into a fight on a boat. too afraid to go to authorities, holbrooke came up with his own solution. >> on the next couple of days i built another few picnic days over it. i know it's horrible and stupid. but i had never been in that situation before. i've never tried to paint myself as a good guy, i'm a bad guy, i'm getting witnesses deserve. i am sorry. but i can do nothing to bring those people back. >> hobo repeatedly says he sorry for what he's done. and he does shed tears. but not for the victims. for his wife, laura, who he says is innocent. she didn't deserve this.
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>> if i could give my life to make your free, i would. that's it. >> and the man who said he killed six people had time to sit in the cell and think about his own death. william dathan holbert and his wife apparently received threats in prison. there is a guard that brings me a cell phone and brings me threats from these people. i'm a dead man, i don't even care. but my wife doesn't deserve this. >> did you talk to your lawyers about this? what options do you? have >> options! what options? excuse me, give me a sense second to compose myself. >> it doesn't get any worse than this guy. he's the worst of the worst. >> do you think the trail of bodies is longer than we know? >> i have no doubt. how many people did this guy kill? no one knows.
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>> panama's auxiliary prosecutor on the case, bill calderon, says he reached out to other countries to see if any of their missing persons may have crossed paths with wild bill. >> once they verify any persons who have had contact with him and may have disappeared, they will take steps to investigate. >> if there are victims out there, they may be hard to find. while bill mostly targeted loners, people whose disappearances may not be noticed. >> it wasn't until bill killed share, the woman who had a smile for everyone, that he was caught. >> it was a mistake, of targeting share, that was his downfall. >> he picked someone that absolutely stood out everywhere she went. and would be missed and loved. >> someone the family cared so much about, that they would start calling immediately. >> this is our girl, how dare you miss with our girl and think we're not coming for you.
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>> it would take seven long years for the wheels of justice to turn in panama. during that time, whole births wife divorced him while they both sat in separate panamanian jails. but cher's family finally got the news they had waited for. in august 2017, william dathan holbert, the man the people knew of bocas del toro new as "wild bill" cortez, we found guilty of the robbery and homicide of five people, according to a tweet from the panama ministry of justice. he was sentenced to 47 years in prison. and a woman once known as jane cortez, she was sentenced to 26 years for her role in the crimes. for cher's sister judy, there are only good memories and appreciation for the big sister who followed her adventurous spirit all the way to paradise. >> you're not bitter that she never went to panama, to bocas del toro.
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>> i'm happy that she went, because i know that she would it meant to her. the piece in her heart of being able to live there. i wouldn't have wanted her to miss that. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline", i'm natalie morales, thanks for watching. >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is dateline. this is dateline >> he said quote, he's got me. >> he was once a kgb agent that turned into a vocal critic of russia,. when he was poisoned in london, it made headlines around the world. >> a lethal toxin in a cup of tea. >> it was a tiny little dirty bomb. >> it's nuclear terrorism. >> why was he? kilter unravel the mystery, we follow the tale of a dark conspiracy. >> are you frightened for your life? >> will me and confront the pain prime suspect. >> did you put polonium


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